In most professional industries employee turnover is a bad thing. I’ve heard a statistic stating that the average turnover rate is roughly 15%—depending on what industry you’re looking at. Some industries, like professional sports, have incredibly high rates of turnover year after year. In the case of the NBA, turnover happens from players all the way through executive leadership. Sometimes this happens multiple times within a fiscal year.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve seen a rumor that the Cavaliers might be interested in Jamal Murray in exchange for their star point guard Kyrie Irving. Before I begin, let me say that I would love for the Nuggets to have Kyrie Irving on board. Irving playing alongside Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris is the stuff dreams are made of. However, I don’t want Irving if it means the Nuggets have to part with Murray in the process. Perhaps the Cavaliers are looking for a handful of power forwards?
To me, Murray is like 1997 Amazon.com stock. The Nuggets have someone incredibly special on their hands, and to trade him away for the right now guy is an incredibly ill-fated plan. It’s like when the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees incurring the “Curse of the Bambino” that plagued the Rex Sox organization for years. I realize I’ve just compared Murray to Babe Ruth, but in all seriousness I believe he’s going to be something the Nuggets will sorely regret parting with if they choose to make that decision.
To further my argument, I wanted to highlight some ways that personnel turnover wreaks havoc on an organization. I abhor how the NBA so flippantly dismisses players and coaches in a ridiculous display of desperation to win now as opposed to building a solid, lasting foundation. Organizations like these want the stability that the San Antonio Spurs have developed through years of long and hard work without putting in the time and effort to get there.
Culture and teamwork within an organization are vital to its success. Culture is the product of the unique individual traits of a group of people centered around a common goal. By working together, the organization’s personality develops as a result of each person contributing to its unique brand.
However, a good company culture doesn’t develop overnight. Building relationships takes time, and the trust that players develop with one another isn’t something that can be put on like a pair of shoes. Trust comes through wins, losses, and overcoming challenges as people understand their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.
By constantly replacing personnel, culture and trust have no environment to grow in an organization, thereby undermining success completely.
Training & development
If an organization doesn’t have time to train and develop now, what makes them think they will have time to do that in the future? Simply trading for a superstar to win now seems like an easy shortcut, but there is always an adjustment period and that could take 1-2 years before any results come in (remember culture).
Why not spend that time developing the players you know will be incredible in a couple years’ time? Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it takes time, but you will either spend the time now, or you’ll spend it in a couple years when things still don’t work because you want to take the lazy way out. The hard truth is that there is no shortcut or magical formula to winning (sorry moneyballers), and trading away developing assets only dilutes your organization ultimately undermining success once again.
Turnover is expensive. Like, REALLY expensive. Culture, teamwork, trust, and development aside (which are the intangible costs of turnover), the financial impact alone should be enough to make NBA team owners cringe. An incredible amount of money goes into the administrative end filling out paperwork, signing forms and getting contractual agreements in place through agents and attorneys. Then the new person must be given orientation by the team staff to include adjustments with the equipment manager, specialized training programs developed by the strength and conditioning coach, and the team’s medical staff.
This is apart from the new coaching system the player will need to adjust to. Just like players develop trust with one another, they also develop trust with their coaches. Combine newly hired coaches with newly recruited players and you’ve just bought yourself a couple years of development time overnight. All of these day to day operations cost big bucks, and each time a trade is made the cost goes up. More money spent on these things means less money to pay good coaches and player salaries which ultimately undermines success as players and coaches leave in free agency and to other teams (Danilo Gallinari, Chris Finch).
Now, I’m not suggesting that organizations avoid making trades and coaching moves when necessary. There is a certain amount of turnover that can be a good thing when things just aren’t working out. However, if the move being made involves parting with assets that will prove incredibly valuable over time in exchange for the quick fix, the answer should always and unconditionally be no.
All in all I vote for the Nuggets to keep Murray around, and let Irving go to another team (or stay with the Cavs which I think is more likely). Afterall, Jokic is who the Nuggets need to run the offense through, and to disrupt that balance would be tantamount to treason in my book.
Nuggets, I beg you, please keep the band together. (Unless you’re planning to offload a band of power forwards. In that case, I would support you wholeheartedly.)